Ontario lawyer responds to misconduct allegations from residential school survivors
A lawyer from Kenora, Ont., under investigation by the Law Society of Upper Canada, says all of his residential school clients received their full entitlement.
Doug Keshen is facing allegations of professional misconduct and is to appear before the Law Society tribunal on June 30.
He is accused of advancing money to clients against anticipated settlement funds and transferring money from residential school clients’ settlement funds to himself.
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“I’m not in a situation like the ones in other parts of Canada where lawyers took people’s money and the clients didn’t receive their benefit,” Keshen said. “My situation is that I advanced some dollars interest-free. I never personally benefited.”
Keshen is also accused of facilitating high interest loans from Settlement Lenders of Canada. The loans were secured against anticipated settlement funds, according to the Law Society’s Notice of Application.
“In a few instances there were loans to outside financial institutions where the funds went from my trust directly to the loaning institution as per the client’s direction,” Keshen said. “The Law Society is suggesting that I shouldn’t have done that and if that’s the case then they’ll inform me.”
The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement says cash advances and loans arranged by lawyers are not allowed.
Keshen is also under scrutiny from the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat, which launched an investigation last year after receiving complaints from survivors.
In one case, a complainant was issued $190,000 by Canada through the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), according to court documents obtained by CBC. The direct payment from Keshen’s law firm was $48,166.12.
The rest of the money is alleged to have gone to such things as cash advances, administration fees, loans and interest.
Keshen said the secretariat’s independent audit of his books will be made public soon. He expects it will clear him of the allegations.
“I feel very much for my clients. I’ve tried to be very, very conscientious,” he said. “I haven’t been successful in that regard and I obviously feel bad about that, but I believe when the secretariat’s investigation becomes public it will be very clear that all of my clients received their full entitlement.”